Populist AfD unity challenged over Frauke Petry election strategy | News | DW | 08.04.2017
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Populist AfD rancor

Populist AfD unity challenged over Frauke Petry election strategy

German AfD leader Frauke Petry is facing fresh rancor within her populist party over her call that it decide whether it is fit to govern or to stay in "fundamental" opposition. The party convenes on April 22.

A strategic direction resolution drafted by Petry for her party's main conference in Cologne - ahead of Germany's September election - drew further criticism on Saturday after regional AfD leaders had urged her to withdraw it.

Her federal co-leader, Jörg Meuthen, told the "Frankfurter Allgemeine" (FAZ) newspaper: "This initiative won't work at all."

"We must close the ranks, not split them. Whoever doesn't understand and accept that can neither lead the party nor the electoral campaign," said Meuthen.

Another Petry adversary and AfD deputy chairman Alexander Gauland (pictured right above with Petry and Meuthen) told FAZ that Petry's strategic thinking created "fully artificial frontlines."

"I have never understood what she intends to achieve except to deliver a justification for Höcke's expulsion proceedings," he said.

Petry, who has become the AfD's public face and presumed electoral frontrunner, wants the party to use her draft resolution to decide whether to seek governmental inclusion "at all levels" or to continue presenting marginal views - at the risk of losing middle-class clientele.

Example: Austria's FPÖ 

As one model of her preferred "pragmatic politics" aimed at entering coalition governments, Petry pointed to Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ). 

Deutschland Frauke Petry und Heinz-Christian Strache auf der Zugspitze (picture-alliance/dpa/S. Hoppe)

Austrian FPÖ head Heinz-Christian Strache with Petry

Her AfD currently has footholds in 11 of Germany's 16 regional state assemblies. Nationwide it has waned to about 7 percent after Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and Social Democrats led by Martin Schulz each stabilized their ratingsabove 30 percent.

Motion withdrawal demanded

The magazine "Stern" said delegates of 13 AfD regional branches, with the exception of Petry's Saxony branch, during a telephone conference on Friday had demanded she withdraw her resolution.

"In Cologne we must do everything to generate the [party's] unity and efficacy," said Lower Saxony branch chairman Armin-Paul Hampel, according to the German DPA news agency.

Expulsion proceedings

Gauland was referring to Björn Höcke, a figure in the AfD's Thuringia state branch, who in January called for a 180-degree rethink of Nazi-crime remembrance and described Berlin's Holocaust memorial as a "monument of shame."

Deutschland Landeswahlversammlung der AfD Thüringen | Björn Höcke, Fraktionsvorsitzender (picture-alliance/Arifoto Ug/Candy Welz)

Björn Höcke

Two-thirds of the AFD's executive subsequently voted to oust Höcke, but any expulsion still hinges on a party arbitration body. Petry backed expulsion, saying Höcke had overstepped the mark of the "democratically tolerable."

In Cologne on April 22, 600 AfD delegates are due to decide on the party's election program and its leading election candidate or candidates. Among some, Gauland is favored as a member of a front-running team.

ipj/jm (dpa, AFD, Reuters)

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